Needless to say, this certainly is not a “Best Of” list, as there is so much fantastic electroacoustic improv, techno/dance, jazz and archival releases/reissues I didn’t hear this year, but wanted to and couldn’t due to lack of time and/or money. Therefore, inevitably—like many other year-end lists—this is what I enjoyed the most, culled from what I was able to add to my collection over the past year.
Pierre Gerard and Andy Graydon – Untitled, (Magnetisms) (Winds Measure)
My mind has flexed itself trying to wrap around this release’s many convolutions and multi-tiered, pock-marked constructs. Moreover, the music stretches across a great deal of musical territory—not just the mental territory I’ve created from its sounds. Side B has sections which recall Basic Channel’s extremely sparse dub-inflected moments, and much of the tape recalls early-’50s electronic and tape pieces, but there is something that separates it from that period entirely. I can’t figure it out. I find this release to be extremely original.
アンドリュー チョーク (Andrew Chalk) – 夜のバイオリン (Violin By Night) (Faraway Press)
By far my favorite Andrew Chalk release. I’m having a hard time explaining why this album is so wonderful to me. Its distant and recurrent radio-like sounds, its fractured and interwoven textures give it a peculiar domestic foundation. At times, the sounds are released into the air with just enough time to take on forms in multiple ways and give different stories. Then they come back down. Andrew Chalk creates amorphous and oddly exaggerated emotions, yet they thrive on a separate plane than that of most mental concerns.
Haptic – Scilens (Entr’acte)
Anne Guthrie – Perhaps A Favorable Organic Moment (Copy For Your Records)
Anne Guthrie – Baronfelix (Soundcloud page)
Seth Cluett – Objects Of Memory (Line)
I went out and saw the branches, delicate as telephone wires, each half-golden with the contour created by streetlight. Angles swept down to the center of the night from the rooftops, placed firmly within the blue-black sky. Maybe one star shone, but I did not see it. I have so many things from the past hanging on my walls and sitting on my shelves. As things sit on shelves, their lives are extended. A strange cold emerged in the night and moved a wet leaf across concrete and into a small corner. I can hear a bird singing. I am travelling now. Turtles climb toward a plant. I see a forest, and patches of light spot the floor.
Steve Roden / Various – … I Listen To The Wind That Obliterates My Traces – Music In Vernacular Photographs, 1880-1955 (Dust-to-Digital)
Jean-Luc Guionnet / Seijiro Murayama – Window Dressing (Potlatch)
Scott Smallwood/Sawako/Seth Cluett/Ben Owen/Civylu Kkliu –Phonography Meeting 070823 (Winds Measure)
Grouper – A I A : Dream Loss (Yellow Electric)
Grouper – A I A : Alien Observer (Yellow Electric)
Or maybe rocks on the edge of a river. Or maybe one large rock with pits and falls and curves and sections of lakewater collected in pools. The sky was dark grey, and the horizon was an ending. We were climbing over the rocks late on a Saturday afternoon, as we often did. He climbed up a portion of the rocks and into a hollowed out area with golden light inside. To do this, he had to climb over a tall stack of old glass bottles and glass rocks—also illuminated by the light—which were situated at a kind of entrance to this place. Once he got in, he was crouched down and doing something. I tried to follow, but I was afraid I’d topple over the bottles and glass rocks. I couldn’t step around and over them like he did. So I decided to take the wall apart in order to get through. Each bottle and glass rock was illuminated by the light of this place. Some were green, clear, blue and a few were red.
Jason Kahn, 류한길 (Ryu Hankil), 진상태 (Jin Sangtae), 홍철기 (Hong Chulki), 최준용 (Choi Joonyong), 박승준 (Park Seungjun) – Dotolim (Balloon & Needle)
Tiziana Bertoncini, Thomas Lehn – Horsky Park
Matt Earle, Jason Kahn & Adam Sussmann – Concerts Melbourne+Sydney(Avant Whatever)
Sandro Perri – Impossible Spaces (Constellation)
Prurient – Bermuda Drain (Hydra Head Records)
Excess, excess, guilty pleasure. Nights containing razor-sharp shifting mental spaces, their translucencies overlapping to create a foundation of clouds.
Cooly G – Landscapes / It’s Serious (Hyerdub)
Rustie – Glass Swords (Warp Records)
Machinedrum – Room(s) (Planet Mu)
Lone – Echolocations (R & S Records)
James Blake – James Blake (Atlas Recordings / A&M Records)
Kuedo – Severant (Planet Mu)
This is an album that mind-bogglingly succeeds at integrating the skittering rhythms and energy of Chicago Juke/Footwork into classic early-’80s electronic and ambient music, stabilizing the entire package with cinematic elements that are not, surprisingly, cheesy at all. During 2011 and 2010, I’ve found it very interesting how dance producers are approaching the Juke/Footwork aesthetic currently gaining amazing amounts of international critique, and either recontextualising the style into a more popular one or, like the label Planet Mu, taking it on almost as their child savant, giving it space to grow and show off its raw and unadulterated talent. Planet Mu also gives the hi-fi vinyl treatment to straight-up Chicago Juke and Footwork which popularized itself by cellphone and Youtube videos—what a riot, that is. From what I can gather, this style has taken a saturation of pop and hip hop music inevitably found throughout the South Side of Chicago (and, like, everywhere else) and set it out to dry—no, wrung it tight in strong hands, forced dry in seconds—letting any remaining dampness bake and sizzle in the sun. The crustiness of the scorched pop and hip hop rag begins to disintegrate, and each particle is used to decorate urban monuments of fractured, perpetually crumbling mainstream relics. To this decorating, Kuedo contributes using long, wide brushstrokes of syrupy, oil-based paint.
Holy Other – With U (Tri Angle)
Hieroglyphic Being – Primitif Nous Sommes (Music From Mathematics)
Hype Williams – One Nation (Hippos In Tanks)
Andy Stott – Passed Me By (Modern Love)
Mark Fell – Manitutshu (Editions Mego)
Mark Fell and Peter Rehberg – Kubu / Zikir (Editions Mego)
Luc Ferrari (perf. Musiques Nouvelles / Scottish Flute Trio / Li Ping Ting) – Madame De Shanghai/Après Presque Rien/Visage 2 (Mode)
Morton Feldman (perf. Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin) – Orchestra (Mode)
John Cage (perf. Percussion Group Cincinnati) – The Works for Percussion 1 (Mode)
Miloš Karadaglic – Mediterráneo (Deutsche Grammophon)
Aside from the dumb title, uninspired cover art, generic design (another fine example of a mainstream classical label’s visual aesthetic disintegrating sometime after the early to mid-’90s), this collection of classical guitar pieces was immensely enjoyable and, from what I can tell, supremely played. Just divine, as some folks would say. I could be wrong ! But I don’t care. My lack of knowledge regarding classical guitar, its history, or any of these compositions except for Albéniz’s “Asturias” gives me the liberty of enjoying this album based exclusively on personal reasons and its aesthetically pleasing aural contours. “Asturias” is a nocturnal piece for me, as it became a regular midnight companion on many Winter nights of 2011—an emotionally tumultuous time—during which I found myself listening to classical music and Chicago’s WFMT FM constantly (on which “Asturias” is played every midnight); and through the candle-lit reflections of my plants and picture frames in the blackness of my bedroom window its sound became diffuse.
There were so many releases from labels like Another Timbre, Consumer Waste, Entr’acte, Erstwhile, Edition Wandelweiser, Engraved Glass and many more, that I did not get a chance to explore. Also Eliane Radigue’s Transamorem – Transmortem. I would love to hear that at some stage.
Still amazed at how much innovative, “brand new”, challenging, entertaining, and even “accessible” music exists in so many areas of the musical spectrum, yet the everyday person still does not know any of it exists. Somehow they’re content thinking that the mainstream music industry is still capable of producing quality products for consumption, or they’re too apathetic/indifferent to seek out anything better. With a few glistening exceptions —if everything was as chromatic and visceral as some of the Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj singles, there wouldn’t be as much of a problem —I can’t see how the mainstream music industry is satisfying anyone’s needs.